Op-ed: Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney Responds to Criticisms
Jan 10, 2014
By Lynette Gibson McElhaney
The East Bay Express (EBX) has been investigating me for the last nine months – digging into my personal life, my work in Richmond and on the City Council.
Frustrated in their attempt to find any meaningful evidence of wrongdoing or unethical behavior, they have concocted a front-page “scandal” about the practices of the affordable housing non-profit, where I have served as a leader since 2001.
The practice in question? A modest investment in market-rate real estate, with the proceeds from that investment being used to fulfill our mission of providing affordable housing for veterans.
A child of the Civil Rights movement, I have dedicated my life to public service. I am proud of both my service at Richmond NHS where I have served since 2001 and as an elected representative on the Oakland City Council since 2013.
In light of the unwarranted and dishonorable attacks on my reputation I want to make it clear to all of my supporters, colleagues, and constituents that I have done nothing wrong or unethical. This attack only strengthens my commitment to tackling the real problems facing Oakland.
And to (Express editor) Bob Gammon, I want to make it crystal clear that at a time when funds for affordable housing have been decimated and tensions are rising between communities of color and law enforcement across the country, your decision to focus the considerable power of your publishing platform on me, calls into question your editorial judgment.
The public needs to know that in its response to the EBX inquiry, the NHS Board of Directors investigated its claims and found that there has been no violation of policy or law by the Executive Director, members of the board or its partners, Richard Reese or Kevin Hampton, in any deal where Richmond NHS was involved.
Further, Boardmember Niels Povlsen is a leader with an impeccable reputation who did not do anything in violation of any law or policy of NHS. There have been no conflicts of interest found by any agency by any member of the board or staff.
As a fierce advocate for affordable housing I have worked closely with my city council colleagues to create a designated fund for affordable housing and to strengthen tenant protection laws. I am also a pro-growth advocate for smart development because
I understand that failure to meet the demand for market-rate housing will lead to more displacement. And, while it is true that I am deeply concerned about maintaining economic and racial diversity in Oakland, I believe the biggest threat is the ability to attract and retain working-class jobs and to maintain public safety in our neighborhoods.
Like many others, I have often put the needs of others ahead of my own. Those who know me can attest that I work tirelessly to care for the people in my family, the community, and my work. This has resulted most notably in the painful and embarrassing failure to file timely tax returns – a matter which was rectified this week. In addition,
I was unaware of a technical difficulty that resulted in the delinquent filing of our mid-year campaign report.
These errors, as embarrassing as they are, do not rise to level of unethical behavior or some indication that my work in service to the community is anything other than honorable. Sadly, this type of coverage centering on innuendo and personal attacks often serves to discourage average people from serving in public life.
Most of us are not born with the privilege of having a life unscathed by personal or financial challenges, tragedies or imperfections. This is very unfortunate because every level of government is better served by the diversity of representation that can relate to the daily challenges the average working class American must confront.
I am grateful and honored for the opportunity to serve the people of Oakland as an elected leader. Despite this attack, I will continue to serve with the utmost respect for the public and for my colleagues.
In the past two years I have worked to fulfill my campaign pledge to focus on strengthening the local economy, improving public safety and improving the professionalism of the Council.
And, I sincerely hope that my service inspires others to serve without the need to be perfect.
District 3 Councilmember Lynette McElhaney was elected president of the Oakland City Council at the council’s meeting on Monday, Jan. 5.
Lynette Gibson McElhaney, District 3 City Council member, is president of the Oakland City Council.